The Government’s legislation to require councils who adopted Māori wards without referendum to either reverse their decision or hold a binding poll at the 2025 elections has passed its first reading in Parliament.

“Restoring the right to local referendums on the establishment and ongoing use of Māori wards is a commitment under both the ACT and NZ First coalition agreements with National,” said Local Government Minister Simeon Brown.

The Bill will also reinstate a requirement for 5 per cent of voters to initiate a referendum on proposals for a Māori ward. The Bill is expected to be enacted in July.

Said Minister Brown: “The coalition Government’s view is that any decision to establish or disestablish a Māori ward is one that should remain with communities. These changes ensure that local communities have a say in their governance arrangements.”

At its full council meeting on May 23, Hastings District councillors resolved to retain the Takitimu ward, pending the legislation being enacted, and hold a binding poll at the 2025 local elections, the results of which would take effect from the 2028 local elections.

“This is a matter that really should be decided by local government and its communities, not Central Government,” says Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.

Noting extensive public consultation showing strong support for a Māori ward, Mayor Hazlehurst said the proposed change was concerning, particularly given the level of support for Māori wards the community had shown during council’s consultation in 2021.

The newly created Takitimu ward was then established for the 2022 local body election. However, one of its first incumbents recently resigned, and in the by-election just concluded in Hastings, Heather Te Au-Skipworth was elected to fill the seat.

Napier City Council is in the same boat, having conducted extensive public consultations on Māori wards in 2021 and on the basis of strong support voting to introduce them in the 2025 local body election. NCC is now undertaking a representation review which includes the matter of how many Māori seats to establish.

As we write, we are awaiting comment on how NCC now plans to proceed in view of the legislation.

Like Napier, CHB District Council has approved Māori wards and is now reviewing how to implement them. As reported on RNZ, Mayor Alex Walker says decisions on Māori wards should sit entirely at the council table, without the requirement of referenda, just like all other representation issues, including the establishment of rural boards. She observes that councils that have created Māori wards have already gone through extensive public consultation on the matter and argues it is discriminatory and unfair for Māori wards to require this additional referendum step.

Based upon past statements, the region’s mayors and Regional Council chair all share this view.


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  1. It is my understanding, that during the “consultation” process, written submissions were viewed as less important than oral submissions. If so, that would have introduced extreme bias.

  2. Why is it democratic for the politicians to make the decision but anti democratic for the voters to do so?
    Maori Wards are a constitutional change which is why Helen Clark gave the referendum option when they started. All constitutional changes are done by referendum or supermajority
    Nanaia Mahutu removed referenda without any consultation, the coalition fought an election on it and won
    If the mayors are right about support the wards will stay. If they’re wrong then they go

  3. Yes, 100% correct! However, ALL decisions are made and decided upon, Not by just, the Mayor!
    But by, the majority of the whole council. Another matter is, if the referendum, is Not a binding one, Council’s can do as they wish. No matter how much “public consultation”…….
    Citizens only true democratic right, is come election time.

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